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We need to dig deeper into the 99% germs…

I was in my friend’s bathroom yesterday and my eyes spotted a particular bar soap next to the sink. Now, there was nothing particularly extraordinary about this observation because this soap has been around since my childhood and I have seen it in almost all homes growing up in the township.

But for some reason, yesterday I was drawn anew to the words “Kills 99% of germs”. I have seen these words many times both written and splashed on TV commercials for disinfectants products, as part of their winning tag lines. Re-looking at the statement made me pose the following questions to myself:

  • Why are we okay with the 1% of germs not killed?
  • Is it impossible for a disinfectant to remove all germs?
  • Is it true that 1% of germs might actually be very good for us?
  • Why do we trust brands when they make the 99% claim?
  • How do we even measure to see if this claim is true in our households?

I looked at the ingredients on the bar soap and there were 18 ingredients in total that made that bar. Of all those, I only recognized 1 yet this is a brand we have trusted for years.

I can’t recall how many times I’ve caught the flu and cold virus and I know many people who have as well. Yet, in our homes we have two or more disinfectants with this 99% germ claim. I have heard that there are many types of germs and not all of them may be flu and cold causing. So, could it be that these disinfectants are not necessarily killing the germs that affect us severely?

I am by no means attacking the manufactures of these disinfectant products, but as an advocate for Human Rights, I want to challenge us to dig deeper into the 99% claims.

In digging deeper into the 99%, we need to…

  • Be a bit more educated about germs that cause flu and cold viruses and use our buying power to purchase products that best serve us as opposed to taking the marketing messages of some of these organizations at face value.

My final thoughts– brands need to be held with a bit more accountability. We can’t just consume things blindly, by placing our complete trust in profit making corporations. We are in a period where our voice as consumers is powerful.

I advocate that we dig deeper into claims brands make and recognize that our (brand and consumers) relationship is actually symbiotic.  We have needs, they have the services/products we need. The word “need” suggests a co-dependence, that fully serves both parties fairly.

 

Image courtesy: https://healevate.com/microbiome-explained-plain-english/

Challenge the thought not the thinker!

For those of us who don’t exchange a product (e.g. food, insurance, clothes) or provide a tangible service like (Hairdressing; healthcare; hospitality etc.) for money what we essentially sell is ideas in exchange for an income. Those in the business of selling “ideas” can testify that sometimes this task can be a daunting one because you don’t necessarily have something tangible that you can convince people about all the time.

What makes the exchange of ideas also more difficult is that, those who consume and engage with them have their own subjective biases. I will give an example about the latter point. I was in a meeting recently and the Sponsor of the project was not impressed with the proposal we had submitted. When he was giving us his feedback, I felt like I was in high school with all the red pen marks that he made on almost every page. Post that meeting, the old me would have left that room distraught and would have felt down and made the comments about me (the thinker) and not the proposal (the thought). My ability to be mature about such matters came a while back when I was reading the book of Proverbs. As I was reading the writer shared the below commentary:

“Mental Sharpness comes from being around good people. And a meeting of minds can help people see their ideas with new clarity, refine them and shape them into brilliant insights. This requires partners who can challenge one another and stimulate thought- people who focus on the idea without involving their egos in the discussion; people who know how to attack the thought and not the thinker. Two friends who bring their ideas together can help each other become sharper.” Unknown

I was completely blown away by this statement “know how to attack the thought and not the thinker.” The ability to be able to separate what you DO and WHO YOU ARE is truly an extraordinary accomplishment.

We need to get comfortable with our ideas being challenged because the more they are challenged, the more refined an idea becomes. Sometimes one’s perception of your “ideas” or “your work” may have nothing to do with you. What we must remember is that when we come together in our various social settings, we come as individuals fully loaded with all sorts of prejudices and convictions about the world.

We need to get comfortable with this philosophy of the attack the thought not the thinker because we live in a society where people have brilliant ideas, but they never vocalise them for fear of what people may think about them.

We need to create spaces for people to feel completely comfortable to share their thoughts, knowing that they will not be made to feel stupid or silly but rather an opportunity to further refine that idea for the betterment of whatever outcome they may be intending to achieve.

Let activism live beyond the BIG campaigns…

I was watching one of my favourite talk shows recently and one of the guest speakers said something profound. I won’t get into the detail of his statement but the key thing he was trying to raise awareness about was that, collective societal transformation is more powerful and sustainable when we recognise that it starts as an internal individual journey.

I loved his rendition and felt he gave language to some thoughts that have been on my mind around activism.

I think we can agree to a certain extent that, the influence of social media platforms in our generation has created more leeway for people to be ‘activists’ in the comfort of their own homes. Whether this form of activism is effective or not, is still a question that needs answers.

I really love the following definition of what activism is- “Activism is quite simply taking action to effect social change; this can occur in a myriad of ways and in a variety of forms. Often it is concerned with ‘how to change the world’ through social, political, economic or environmental change. This can be led by individuals but is often done collectively through social movements” (http://www.permanentculturenow.com/what-is-activism/).

I think in the world there is a general sense that people really do want to see “change” and by this, I mean, people want good change that enhances their humanity and doesn’t violate their human rights. The one major concern is that, in bringing about this change in most cases, the focus is heavily external. E.g. people embark on these massive marches and run various social media campaigns to create awareness about a social ill with the ultimate end goal of bringing about change in that social ill.

Social media has made activism more profound also in that as we become more of a global village, we begin to stand for the same social causes regardless of where we are in the world. This has been translated in the form of social media campaigns such as #BlackLivesMatter; #PrayForParis; #BringBackOurGirls; #16 days of activism for no violence against women and children.

These social activism campaigns are good but I think wisdom keeps shouting at us that real change is an internal journey of multiple interventions happening over a consistent and long period of time. It’s not a one-time event but a deliberate continuous process.

I am aware of a few people who consistently post impressive and philosophical things on social media to a point where that’s all they do. They don’t embark on any social action about what they post.

My enjoy life tip is this- Yes, it’s good to be a member of some society transforming organisation, it’s good to be part of social media campaigns and raise all sort of awareness about various economic, political, social and work issues, but I also think it’s not only about what you say and post but what you DO!

A true activist is somebody that puts their zeal/passion into action. If you really want to redress an issue, in the spaces that you find yourself in, do something. But more importantly, let it start with you, don’t say one thing and live another. Lead by example and let activism first start in you and eventually it will pour externally- AMANDLA!

Opinion feet…

We live in a world where it seems like every Tom, Dick and Harry has an opinion. I suppose one of the triggers of this, is the fact that, the more advanced society becomes through technology and access to information at our finger tips, the more power lies in the hands of the majority. This is even more evident in this Knowledge Revolution/Era. If you look at social media, if something happens in the world people will start voicing what they think about it. ‘Everyone’ seems to have an opinion about Trump, Jacob Zuma, Mugabe. ‘Everyone’ seems to have an opinion about Africa, about China and about where the world is going in 2030.

At work, at gatherings with friends, and other events with people, you will always find people engaging in broadcasting their opinions about various matters.

I find that opinions can sometimes be overwhelming because, they are not always transformative. Sometimes they seem like “just words in the air” with no real power to make our world better in any way. It is also important to acknowledge that we live in a period where most nations encourage freedom of speech and it has become a part and parcel of people’s democratic human right. I am by no means against freedom of speech and it’s good that people are encouraged to engage in it, but of late I’ve been going through this journey of saying to myself, ‘I want to withdraw from this pressure of always giving opinions. I want to be deep in thought and think things through and in matters where I am not an expert, I want to be able to say I don’t have a comment. In matters where I am an expert, only if what I say will build and it has an action component, then I will open my mouth and give an opinion.’

I find that, what makes opinions powerful is when they have ‘hands and feet’. This means that they can be translated into something more meaningful. So, if I’m unhappy about a situation, the question I should ask is- ‘what can I do?’ in the spaces that I find myself in and where I can influence change, instead of only uttering words of discontent. I want to shift my focus and look at tools, skills, resources, etc. that I can use to influence change so that the opinion becomes something that ‘walks’ and moves beyond the sphere of words.

Forensic Positives…

The SA Idols music show is amongst the few television programmes I really enjoy watching. Season 13 is underway and we have witnessed so many dreams being shattered at theatre week and so many dreams coming true with the selection of the top 10. I believe if season 13 is top season 12, the standout stars will need to start shining fast.

There is something I have noticed from the contestants in every season that runs like an invisible thread.

During the audition stages when the judges go to various provinces, most of the people wait with mixed anticipation to receive Randall’s feedback. Over the years, Randall has been the one judge, who I can say “judges with an iron fist”. He is not easily impressed no matter how good someone may sound and he gives very honest, sometimes brutally honest feedback. Some people perceive him to be very difficult and harsh in his feedback.

During theatre week and live performances, I’ve noticed that, if the other judge’s praise a contestant’s performance and Randall comes with a negative comment, the contestant leaves the stage a bit down-cast. However, if they receive very positive feedback from all the judges, including Randall, they are overjoyed.

So why does Randall’s feedback matter so much to most of the contestants? I think the answer lies in the wisdom; someone I consider a “Thought Leader”, Paul Scanlon shared. You see, we constantly encouraged in various spheres of our lives to ignore the critics. But Paul shared that, “the reason the things ‘our’ critics say carry so much weight, is because they are forensic with their negatives”. What this means is that, in most instances the critics pay extremely close attention to your “flaws” and when they give feedback it’s not “wishy washy” because their aim is to make sure that feedback stings; makes you think and perhaps makes you change your behaviour.

Paul’s power line was that, “If we intend on growing people sustainably, the positive feedback we give cannot be “wishy washy”, but it also has to be forensic”. Perhaps the reason why people take Randall’s comments so seriously is because intrinsically they know that he thoroughly thinks things through before saying them. And over the years I have come to appreciate Randall’s feedback even more because in most instances when he says someone will not make it, they don’t and when he says someone will make it, they usually do. What I love most about Randall’s judging technique, is that when he judges people, he doesn’t judge them solely on whether they can sing or not but he wears a big picture hat and to him it’s always about “are you going to win the competition or not”. There are a lot of people who can sing, but singing and winning are two different things. Over and above musical talent, winning encompasses things like discipline, being strategic, being adaptable, being teachable, being consistent and as much as someone may be able to ‘sing’ they may not always possess attributes to win. I believe Randall, looks at whether a person will have longevity in the music industry; an industry that gives so much and takes away much.

The lesson I am learning in all this is that, if we intend on raising great leaders and impacting people positively – we need to give people feedback that’s not short sighted but feedback informed by foresight. Our positive feedback can’t only be applicable for the here and now, but we should be forensic and sometimes the feedback may sound tough at the time but I think in time, if your motive for providing feedback is pure – than that should be underscored as a forensic positive.

Real difference makers will not always get a standing ovation and it’s okay…

According to the free online dictionary the term making a difference means “To do something that really makes a difference in your community. People don’t realize that their vote can make a difference”. (www.thefreedictionary.com)
I think we can all agree that of late, there has been a tremendous focus and awareness on the idea of making a difference.

There are normal people and then there are above average people. I have come to notice that the above average people generally have a sense that there’s more to their lives than just their normal day-to-day routines. And when they are thinking of making a difference – they think; really redefining the status quo. I have had a lot of conversations with people and I can safely say 70% of people I converse with really do want to make a difference and I think that’s a very good thing. The problem I have picked up though is that a lot of influential, popular people; mostly celebrities always broadcast their difference making. I sometimes question the genuineness of the difference we trying to make if we always are wanting the world to see it and applaud it. My view is that there are a lot of genuine acts of excellence in business and in our careers, that will go unnoticed and that’s okay.

Making a difference isn’t an event, it isn’t a means to an end, but it is the very essence of a life lived fully. Health and gym fanatics always say that diets are not sustainable because in a way they disrupt our default mode as humans. They advise that what is sustainable is making healthy choices that become an essential part of one’s lifestyle. When you go to sleep, no one says ‘wow, well done’; when you eat no one comes and gives you an award for finishing your meal. Yet we can’t fully survive without these normal day-to-day activities.
Likewise, our difference making should not be an out of the ordinary phenomena but every day should be an opportunity to do good…

Tolerance has an expiry date…

It’s Idols season again in South Africa and I think most people in South Africa and across the world would agree that Idols is one of the biggest and most loved entertainment franchise shows, in the globe. We particularly love the discovery of new talent and of course the untalented through the wooden mic contestants. These are the contestants who seem like they are ‘intoxicated with something’ (excuse my language) that convinces them they can actually sing.

What I love and have come to observe about the audition stages of the show is that families are able to enjoy watching this hilarious entertainment together. Watching these wooden mic contestants also serves as an ideal ice-breaker, if you left in a room with someone you not that close too and the small talk starts running dry.

But after those few audition episodes and once the judges have done their sifting, there’s no more time to play. As consumers of the show, our tolerance appetite takes on a new form. We don’t want any more wooden mic performances on our screens; we want to see great singers. Every evening we tune in, use our airtime to vote for those who bear their heart and soul on that stage. We want to see the contestants improve from their initial auditions. We expect them to bring their best in every performance, but also being sensitive to the fact that they human. All we want to see is that they are trying their best. But unfortunately, as the saying goes “you are only as good as your last performance”. We will forgive one slip up during the live shows, but if it happens again, chances are we may not tolerate it.

Tolerance in most factions of life has an expiry date. I also started thinking about this in the context of poor performance at work. When an employee is reported for poor performance, good HR practices involve ensuring that the employer always acts in the best interest of the employee to avoid CCMA charges. HR will probably have engagements with the employee and their manager to zoom into the cause of the poor performance. If it’s a skill issue, they will probably place the employee on a 6-12 month development programme and monitor progress. If it’s a resource issue, they may give it month or two by ensuring that they provide all the necessary resources to enable the employee to perform optimally. If it’s a well-being issue (i.e. personal issue affecting work) they may bring in professionals like psychologists to assist the employee over a period of time. However, if all these different solutions are tried over a significant period of time and the employee’s performance still does not change, the employer has every right to terminate employment. Tolerance for poor performance is only acceptable to a certain point. It’s really not about perfection but progressiveness.

When you keep making excuses about certain things and not take accountability for your actions and your future, it will eventually catch up with you. Even the physical or physiological body has an expiry date. If we keep not eating right and not exercising, one day we will have damaged our body beyond repair and it would not be able to tolerate it any more. Tolerance has nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. Sometimes you walk away from people you adore and environments you adore because your tolerance level has simply expired. Even people, who occupy influential or leadership roles, need to be careful how they treat people, because if people are not treated well – their tolerance will eventually expire.

Before you load more, focus and stabilize

I was reading one of my favourite women magazines and one of their main articles for the month was an exposé of three very influential women. These three women are what we term “movers and shakers” in their various fields. They were asked to share their individual journeys that led them to build successful business empires.

As I read their unique individual stories of triumph, pain, confusion, wins, challenges and ultimately success; I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the one common thread of wisdom or advice they all shared.

When asked to share some success and business secrets, they mentioned that it’s very important to have a focus when starting out and make sure you stick to the focus.  They mentioned that many times people attempt to be the “jack of all trades” and that can become problematic because you can easily lose focus and not build a solid foundation, and when you don’t build a solid business foundation there will be cracks in your business and ultimately that will affect your business negatively.

Builders often emphasize the laying of a solid foundation before building the entire residential or commercial building. The foundation is probably the most important part in a building construction. The foundation carriers the building that sits on top of it thus ensuring that the foundation is built to the very best standards possible is very much worth it. When the foundation is not properly done and begins to fail, you will notice the following: cracks on the exterior wall finishing; separated brick joints; windows or doors misaligned; cracks on the flooring, etc. (http://www.ultrabuilders.ph).

I don’t know about you but I am overwhelmed with this obsession to seem like a “multi-tasker”. It’s like if we not doing more than one thing with our lives we are insignificant. Many of us like starting too many things at the same time therefore are unable to dedicate time to focus on one thing and getting that one thing right. I believe it’s okay to work on something for long, to others it may seem mediocre, it may seem like repetition and that’s okay because as the old cliché goes “practice makes perfect”.

I look at stabilising as a way of staying true to who you are and what you are about. One of the accolades I often hear people say when they referring to someone who’s great; is that they remain themselves in a world that’s constantly trying to make us all the same…

Someone else to implement your ideas, what do you think?

We all know that everything we see, touch, feel experience etc. started off as an idea in the psyche of a fellow human. Ideas change the world both for the better and sometimes for the worst. What would the world be without the internet, cell phones, books, music, cars, organisations, aeroplanes, etc. and of course money, that underpins everything. Yes sure, there are generations which existed before some of these, but the point I am trying to make is most of these inventions have somewhat improved the journey of humanity on this earth.

In my silliness, I sometimes smirk at my sister that, I am so grateful for the person who thought of the idea of an indoor toilet…hahaha. In our generation there is an obsession of conceiving and birthing ideas. I think that when we think ideas, we often have the underlying objective of wanting to bring about ideas that solve issues, ideas that change the way things are done and also ultimately ideas that bring new things.

And we can all agree that we love the accolades of being called an “ideas person”, but here is a thought I have been grappling with… is it really that important or even necessary to implement the idea/s I came up with?

One of the questions I really dread being asked when I sit in interviews is, ‘So tell me, what ideas/creative things have you thought of and have implemented in your current role?

I dread this question for various reasons because in that moment I really struggle to remember some of the “big” and “amazing” ideas I have come up with and implemented. But what makes the thinking process more wrestling is I’ve never truly executed an idea all by myself, especially in the work context. Ideas are usually executed as a collective effort. I have thought of a lot of ideas but those were never implemented and what the interviewer cares about at the end of the day is how that idea improved the organisation.

There is a bit of a double edge effect in corporate around this. On the one end, there is an obsession with hiring people who seem to say all the right things and are overly confident. And I actually think this can sometimes be dangerous because sometimes people can lie and over exaggerate what they have done.

On the other end, corporate is fundamentally established through an understanding that some people/teams will come up with ideas and some will implement them. This is a continuous cycle witnessed through a lot of projects that organisations undertake.

I know that this ideas discussion is a broad one and I don’t think I can do enough justice to it in this piece. There wouldn’t be things like protection of intellectually property if people didn’t take ideas seriously.

I guess the point I am trying to make in this piece is, sometimes it’s really okay for someone else to be the one to implement your great idea. We have to bear in mind that an idea is only celebrated once it’s actually something tangible that comes to life. However we obviously have to be wise when it comes to our ideas. Every context will guide you in terms of how to approach this. There are situations where you have to own your idea, even protect it until a point where you ready to execute on it. But there are also situations, which most of us will find ourselves in, where we have to work interdependently. In those instances, when you all have a shared objective about what you want to achieve then I really do think you shouldn’t be obsessed with being the one to come up with and implement the idea.

But what do you think, should we really want so much recognition for our ideas or should we care more that the idea is executed as opposed to laying claim of who its rightful owner is?

Cautious of my own ignorance…

I really love watching a show called “Come dine with me” which airs on the BBC lifestyle channel. I know a lot of people who like this show will probably agree and say the most fun part about the show is the comments that the sarcastic narrator Dave Lamb often makes.

In this one episode of the UK version, I couldn’t help but be annoyed by this one guy who was a bit of a slob according to me, but he kept on complaining a lot about how the other people had bad table manners and bad fine dining etiquette.

I really think his statement stuck with me because, I have had someone who commented about what I didn’t do right at the dinner table. I am sure most of us have heard people share their unasked opinions of how the fork, the knife, the glass, the spoon, the plate etc should be set in order to comply with fine dining etiquette.

And I must tell you, I have been to a lot of dinners and when the food is set before me and I am in the company of great people, I hardly remember most of these dinner table manners. I’ve asked myself why I can’t remember them, and well the answer I’ve come up with so far is that these things don’t come naturally to me because in my upbringing, I was not taught about fine dining etiquette.

I grew up like so many South Africans and many people around the world, our evening meals were had in the lounge whilst watching television. The only time we sat at a table together to enjoy a meal was when we were at a restaurant or a function. The focus was more on enjoying a good meal together and watching something we all loved. I would be lying if I said that I felt there was something missing in our dinner experience. But then again, I had never been exposed to the strict regiments of fine dining. Until I was in my late teens and entering my twenties, I got exposed to the whole concept of fine dining etiquette. There was a moment where I felt the overwhelming shame of not knowing certain things which my compatriots would indicate where table manners 101. In a few instances I was made to feel not “civilized”…but I beg to ask the question, according to whose standards?

I hear the phrase “beware of ethnocentricity” in mind. What is it? Well, when someone says you are ethnocentric they simply saying, you evaluate other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of your own culture. It started to dawn on me that we must be careful of not lording our ideas, convictions and way of being when making decisions in a culturally inclusive world.

There are many things I grew up having great convictions about and would even argue that was the only way. Until I got exposed to a different side, and I must say it’s really true when they say new information gives you a different perspective. In some decisions I have made, I have been faulty because I chose to lord only what I thought was best and didn’t engage with other convictions around me.

My enjoy life tip is this: If we are going to thrive in the global village and be exposed to different people, we should consider certain key basic principles. Firstly, we must get the facts before rushing to give an opinion about people and situations around us. Secondly, we must be open to new ideas and revelations and lastly we must make sure we hear both sides of every story before judging. These principles center on seeking additional information which can be difficult work sometimes, but the only alternative if we don’t choose to be open-minded is ignorance. We must be involved in a continuous process of caution against ignorance because if we don’t we may fall into prejudice which is judging before getting the facts.

I am trying to apply these principles in my own life so that when I write, speak and make decisions, I do so with a deeply rooted confidence.

Back to the fine dining narrative, as I have mentioned I want to be cautious of my own ignorance, can I ask the fine dining etiquette activists to please teach me? I am open to learn and understand what makes having great table manners so life changing.

 
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